Dominion Does Damage Control After Connection To Anti-Youngkin Ads Revealed

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

After it was revealed that Dominion Energy gave at least $200,000 to a secretive group connected to Democrats that’s running ads designed to depress Republican turnout in the upcoming Virginia elections, the company spent most of Monday trying to do damage control.

According to the Washington Post, Dominion CEO Robert Blue said he had no idea that the Accountability Project would be running ads that appear to be from a conservative group upset about Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin’s supposed squishiness on Second Amendment issues, and now he’s asking for his money back.

“Although familiar with the Accountability Virginia PAC sponsors, we failed to vet sufficiently the scope of their intended activities,” Bell said in the email, which a company spokesman confirmed was authentic. “In as much, we have asked that our contributions be returned.”

The social media ads highlight the fact that Youngkin did not receive an endorsement from the National Rifle Association, an attempt to cast doubt on the former business executive’s commitment to gun owners’ rights.

While Youngkin promised to roll back restrictions on gun rights while pursuing the GOP nomination, he has more recently been mum on the topic — focusing instead on crime — as he seeks to woo independent voters who will play a crucial role in his increasingly tight race against former governor Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee.

“While the NRA backs Donald Trump, they REFUSED to endorse Glenn Youngkin,” one of the ads says. “We can’t trust Glenn Youngkin on guns. Youngkin should tell us the truth about where he stands.”

Last month, Axios reported that Accountability Virginia PAC has ties to the Democratic Party. Among other things, Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue hosts the group’s online donations page, and it used a digital marketing firm co-founded by the digital director of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, the Axios report found.

Given that Dominion donated at least $75,000 to Accountability Virginia PAC after the Axios story appeared, I’m not really buying Blue’s excuse that the energy company just didn’t fully vet the PAC before opening up the corporate checkbook.

Virginia state Sen. David R. Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) said the ads targeted rural areas of his district with large concentrations of conservative voters.

At the same time they appeared, another set of ads from McAuliffe’s campaign that appeared in more moderate suburban areas of the district characterized Youngkin as being too extreme on guns.

Combined, the attack ads sought to suppress enthusiasm for Youngkin from two directions, Suetterlein said.

“Most people were not seeing both messages, but both messages were being put out by groups clearly aligned to help McAuliffe,” he said.

Gun control activists win when gun owners don’t vote, and Democrats are desperate to keep us home on Election Day. As the NRA is reminding Virginians, Terry McAuliffe has big plans for your Second Amendment rights.

Virginians are increasingly exercising their Second Amendment rights. NICS Checks in the commonwealth were up more than 60-percent from 2019 to 2020. From 2019 to 2021 there was a 21-percent increase in the number of resident Right-to-Carry permits. National data on gun buyers in 2020 suggest that half of new gun owners are women and that new owners are more diverse than the general population. Moreover, Gallup polling shows that less than 0.5-percent of Americans consider guns to be the most important problem facing the country.

None of this has stopped Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Clinton bagman Terry McAuliffe from pushing an extreme gun control agenda.

In advocating for severe gun controls, McAuliffe characterized the misuse of firearms as a “public health” matter rather than a criminal justice issue. This is an important rhetorical trick for gun control advocates, as such framing invites further restrictions on law-abiding Virginians instead of measures to control the violent criminals who commit violence with firearms.

McAuliffe’s plan calls for a ban on popular semi-automatic firearms like the AR-15 and magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds. Such a ban would not decrease violent crime and is unconstitutional.

… According to McAuliffe, Virginia’s 2020 law that criminalized private firearm sales did not go far enough. The candidate vowed to “explore the possibility of requiring waiting periods when a person purchases a firearm, and implementing a permit-to-purchase law.” Moreover, McAuliffe’s materials state, “If you want to give a gun to a friend, the person receiving it should have to undergo a background check.”

At a time when Virginians are seeking to protect themselves against a historic increase in homicide, McAuliffe would make them helpless by enacting new barriers to self-defense. McAuliffe’s plan could even prevent friends and family members from providing firearms to loved ones in their time of need.

… In 2020, the Virginia legislature and Gov. Ralph Northam (D) eroded Virginia’s state firearms preemption statute in order to attack law-abiding gun owners who exercise their Right-to-Carry outside the home for self-defense… McAuliffe plans to further restrict carry “in certain public spaces” and give local governments “broader authority to prohibit open carry in their jurisdictions.”

It’s true that the NRA didn’t endorse Glenn Youngkin after he did not return a candidate questionnaire, but I think it’s also fair to say that the group isn’t encouraging gun owners to stay home on Election Day. They’re alerting members to the dangers of a second McAuliffe term, because they know what’s at stake.

Democrats do too, which is exactly why they’re running these stealth campaigns designed to depress turnout among gun owners. If we show up, they don’t get to ban modern sporting rifles or large capacity magazines. If we show up they don’t get to ban the open carrying of firearms without a license or impose further criminal penalties if you loan a gun to your neighbor because she’s concerned about an abusive ex. If we show up at the polls, they don’t get to gavel in a legislative session designed to turn our right to keep and bear arms into a privilege.

As a Virginia voter, I have to say that this incident has ramped up my own enthusiasm about the election. I was never planning on sitting this out, but now I’m ready to drive people to the polls if they need a ride. I’m texting gun-owning friends and sharing the news about Dominion and the Accountability Virginia plan to keep gun owners at home on Election Day. I’m pissed off, frankly, and I know that I’m not alone. Rather than depress their vote, the dishonest and deceptive ad campaign has the potential to energize gun owners, and the Second Amendment activists that I’ve spoken to are fired up heading into the final weeks of the campaign.

Nov 26, 2021 10:30 AM ET